These planning pages (circa 1999) are kept here for reference. The ongoing project is now here.

In 1928, J.D. Bernal (in the book The World, The Flesh and the Devil) proposed creating a network of self-replicating space habitats which duplicate themselves from sunlight and asteroidal ore. He wrote:

Imagine a spherical shell ten miles or so in diameter, made of the lightest materials and mostly hollow; for this purpose the new molecular materials would be admirably suited. Owing to the absence of gravitation its construction would not be an engineering feat of any magnitude. The source of the material out of which this would be made would only be in small part drawn from the earth; for the great bulk of the structure would be made out of the substance of one or more smaller asteroids, rings of Saturn or other planetary detritus. The initial stages of construction are the most difficult to imagine. They will probably consist of attaching an asteroid of some hundred years or so diameter to a space vessel, hollowing it out and using the removed material to build the first protective shell. Afterwards the shell could be re-worked, bit by bit, using elaborated and more suitable substances and at the same time increasing its size by diminishing its thickness. The globe would fulfill all the functions by which our earth manages to support life. In default of a gravitational field it has, perforce, to keep its atmosphere and the greater portion of its life inside; but as all its nourishment comes in the form of energy through its outer surface it would be forced to resemble on the whole an enormously complicated single-celled plant. ... Yet the globe would be by no means isolated. It would be in continuous communication by wireless with other globes and with the earth, and this communication would include the transmission of every sort of sense message which we have at present acquired as well as those which we may require in the future. Interplanetary vessels would insure the transport of men and materials, and see to it that the colonies were not isolated units. ... However, the essential positive activity of the globe or colony would be in the development, growth and reproduction of the globe. A globe which was merely a satisfactory way of continuing life indefinitely would barely be more than a reproduction of terrestrial conditions in a more restricted sphere.
It is the ultimate aim of the Oscomak project to begin to create the social and technological infrastructure required to bring this seventy year old dream into reality.

Obviously, a project like designing such a habitat network is vast in scope, and will involve many thousands of people. The revolutionary aspect of this project is the use of the internet to allow large numbers of interested individuals to work together to accomplish this goal. A small investment used in this way can have a large outcome by leveraging the collective contributions of large numbers of individuals.

Long before space applications are feasible, this library will someday be at the center of a Community Development Corporation incorporating both the library and physical technology.  If the library and CDC proves successful, it will start replicating in nearby neighborhoods until it spans the globe. Someday this network will have the resources to launch a project to create the first Bernal sphere.

The result of the interaction between tools and people will be a library of possibilities that individuals in a community can use to achieve many degrees of self-sufficiency and self-replication within any sized community from one person to a billion people. At the core of this knowledge-gathering process is the notion of a "manufacturing recipe" defining a possible manufacturing process. Within every community people will interact with these possibilities by using them and extending them to design a community economy and physical layout that suits their unique needs.

Aerospace designers will be able to use this knowledge base for designing long duration space missions, lunar colonies, or space habitats that are replicated from sunlight and asteroidal ore. By including such a knowledge base, crews on such long-duration missions will be able to adapt their available technology to new needs by creating new tools and products on an as-needed basis. One can think of this library of possibilities as like the DNA of a cell, with the cell deciding which processes to use based on environmental conditions.

In addition to the obvious result, the knowledge repository, the work will also produce research knowledge on the use of collaborative environments to build shared repositories of technological knowledge. We anticipate writing a series of papers on the project to share the understanding gained by shepherding the repository.

The success or failure of this project can be judged on three counts:

  1. The level of interest as shown by accesses and downloads of the software and knowledge base.
  2. The level of participation as shown by contributions to the knowledge base and collaborative improvements to the software tools.
  3. The degree to which this database is used for education (such as in the Space Settlement contests) and in design (such as in mission planning for long duration space flight).

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